The Declaration was signed by the then South African President Nelson Mandela and former prime minister of India HD Deve Gowda at the Red Fort in Delhi. (Reuters)India and South Africa have been united for centuries by the “umbilical cord” of the long struggle in this country against racial subjugation, the Indian High Commissioner here has said as the two countries marked the 20th anniversary of the Red Fort Declaration. The Declaration, signed on March 1997, reaffirmed ties between India and the first democratic government in South Africa, was celebrated with a multicultural show in Pretoria yesterday.
Speaking at the event, Indian High Commissioner to South Africa Ruchi Ghanashyam said, “India and South Africa have been united for centuries by the umbilical cord of the long struggle in South Africa against racial subjugation.”
India then started the global anti-apartheid campaign at the UN, leading the struggle and supporting the African National Congress in its fight for freedom.
The Declaration was signed by the then South African President Nelson Mandela and former prime minister of India HD Deve Gowda at the Red Fort in Delhi.
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The declaration set the parameters for a rekindled relationship between the two countries with a shared history of colonial rule after India broke ties in 1947 because of the oppressive apartheid plans of the white minority, including proposed repatriation of all its Indian-origin citizens to India.
“It was here that a young Indian lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, became a political activist, developed the philosophy of Satyagraha, and tested its efficacy through multiple prison sentences before he returned to India, effectively equipped to leads India’s own struggle for freedom,” Ghanashyam said at the event, which was attended by several South African ministers of state as well.
“Just as Mahatma Gandhi belongs to both our countries, we in India claim the heritage of Madiba (fond name for Mandela) and feel that Nelson Mandela belongs as much to India as to South Africa. This is a unique and everlasting bond that ties our two countries together,” she said.
Ghanashyam said the ever-growing relationship over the past two decades has seen India and South Africa working together as partners at numerous international fora, including G-20, IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said the Declaration contained the aspirations and shared values of Afro-Asian solidarity which had given rise to an enduring partnership.
“India has indeed been a very special friend to South Africa, one that has provided unwavering support and solidarity during our darkest days when friends were few and when freedom was a pipe dream,” Pandor said.
“India was at the forefront of the international community calling for the isolation of the apartheid regime and was among the first group of countries to welcome us back into the global community after we achieved our democracy in 1994,” she said.
“This year is very special as India celebrates 70 years of its independence from British colonial rule,” Pandor said as she recalled how Mandela had lauded India for fighting the cause of South Africa even before it had achieved its own independence.
“Shared common experiences and collective strength have shaped how we view the world together. As the two nations who have shared their struggle to freedom, the responsibility to improve the lives of others is embedded within our conscience.
“The fight for equity and equality is more relevant today than it has ever been and we will continue to be the vanguard for the reform of global governance so that it is reflective of contemporary reality,” Pandor said as she pledged to jointly implement and further strengthen the partnership initiated by the Red Fort Declaration.